Monday, 21 July 2014

The Way Back - Chapter One

Completely unedited first chapter from my new "Grandma-friendly" sweet romance. I term it grandma-friendly because my romance loving grandma really wants to read one of my books.

I'm not letting my grandma read The Beast or Therapist. :D

Anyhow, this is The Way Back, for my grandma's 89th birthday in August!

TBR it today:

The Way Back 

Chapter One

She should have left the first time he hit her. She knew this now, but, as they say, hindsight is twenty twenty. Looking at her children asleep on the seat next to her made her glad she didn't leave that first time Tom slammed his fist into her face, she never would have had them.
Abbey hadn't been sure she wanted children back then, but she often thought her first accidental pregnancy might have been subconscious, an effort to tame her errant husband. It had worked, almost. Tom hadn't touched a drink for two months after Zach’s birth, he had stayed home and been the perfect, doting husband and father. Then he fell off the wagon, hooked up with his girlfriend and came home drunk one night while Abbey had been nursing Zach. He’d raged against her that night as she rocked quietly in the nursery with Zach at her breast. He finally passed out in a pool of his own vomit halfway down the hallway to their bedroom.
She knew then that nothing would change him, but still she had stayed. She stayed after Sophie had been born, with her perfect blonde curls and chocolate brown eyes. Tom had accused her of cheating that time, so he moved into a hotel with some new girl he’d met at the PBR Finals in Vegas, a barrel racer with lean long legs and an icy stare. That lasted three months before he came crawling back declaring himself a changed man. Against her better judgement, she’d given him yet another shot.
She’d given him another shot, and another, and another. A seemingly unending supply of second chances that he’d taken complete advantage of. Abbey had tucked in and decided to ride it out, stiff upper lip, stand by your man and all that jazz. Until three months ago.
Zach was now a big, strong, eight year old with a temper like his Daddy’s. Abbey had spent years brushing it off with ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘he’s just going through a phase’. Not this time. Zach had been playing video games in the family room while Abbey prepared dinner, something meaty and rustic to keep Tom happy. Sophie was six, and a bit of a loud mouth (like her namesake, Tom’s mother, the rich bitch with an attitude that made country club wait staff run for the hills when they saw her custom Cadillac pull up out front). Sophie had been bugging Zach, typical little sister crap, when Abbey heard her scream and start sobbing. She wiped her hands and ran to them to assess the situation. Zach was standing over his little sister, she was curled on the thick carpet in front of him. His eyes had been on fire, his hand clenched into a fist and Sophie had her eyes squeezed shut with her hands defensively over her head.
“What the hell happened here?” she had demanded of Zach.
He had turned to her and answered in a slow and careful voice, “I hit her. Look what she made me do.” It was like hearing Tom’s voice from the mouth of her sweet, funny and bright little boy.
“She didn’t make you do anything Zach, you made the choice to react,” she’d replied, using her months of google searches on domestic violence to deal with him.
“She pissed me off so she got what she deserved,” he’d replied in the same voice. “I’ll tell Dad when he gets home, he’ll get it. It’s a guy thing. You wouldn’t understand.” He had turned, sat back down, calmly picked up his PSP controller and continued to play. The contempt in his voice had made her blood run cold. That’s when it’d hit home, her children were acting out the exact same scenario they had witnessed a hundred times. They were on the path to become her and Tom in their marriages in the future, and she was the only one who could stop it.
“No need to tell Dad, let’s just all get along and everything will be ok,” she’d said in her bright, cheery, fake voice. She’d walked to Sophie and helped her up, she wasn’t injured, just upset. It still struck Abbey that her daughter was going to end up just like her some day. Cowering at the end of a boot, or a fist. Keeping her grin wide and plastic as she served dinner like a parody of a fifties housewife. Keeping her opinion to herself and her mouth closed, unless her husband was demanding a drunken 3AM blowjob, cramming his piss smelling, semi-hard dick in her face as she was sleeping.
She had known then that it was the end. She never had the guts to leave to protect herself, but somewhere a momma bear was roaring with rage and making plans.
It took three months of stashing money away, taking the cash Tom gave her for the gardeners and housekeeper and driver and keeping it in her coat pocket in the closet. Telling the staff that she would get the money to them, stringing them along until she started to see them getting pissed and wanting to ask Tom about it. Except they were all scared of Tom too. She sold some jewellery on the sly, fed him beers and whiskey every night until he passed out drunk and she could go through his pockets for loose cash.
In those three months she had squirreled away roughly eight thousand dollars. She was damned proud of herself and purchased her very first vehicle for a thousand of it, the old Dodge Ram they were fleeing through the night in to escape him. The very same truck that she was pushing to over a hundred kilometers an hour in spite of the groans of protest from the engine.
She had driven from Calgary to Goldfield in what seemed like the blink of an eye, leaving in the afternoon when she knew Tom would go on a bender with some rodeo buddies. He probably wouldn’t come home that night, so their absence wouldn’t be noted for a while. Ten hours later she was coming into her hometown in the middle of the night. The main street was deserted, even the Tim Horton's parking lot was almost empty. It was Thursday, and she was going to wake her father up and see him for the first time since she left ten years earlier. She had spoken to him on and off over the years, and sent him photos of the kids dutifully, but Tom had never liked her Dad, so Tom had made sure he wasn’t welcome in their fake perfect lives.
She slowed down and felt like she had driven back in time, to high school, the streets hadn’t changed. The kids were still sleeping, the lights from the dash lighting them up, making their faces seem so innocent and unscathed. Sophie was in the middle leaning on her big brother. He had his arm around her protectively, like a big brother should. She had told them they were going to see their grandpa Pete, whom they had never met. Both kids had laughed their heads off at the ratty truck, she laughed with them, not wanting to clue them in that this was something they’d have to get used to. Gone were the days of them living high on the hog off Tom’s family money. The new reality was that she was going to be a single mom in an economically depressed town.
She passed through town, crossed the bridge over the Fraser River and headed out West, towards her childhood home. She knew that wouldn’t have changed in the years since her departure, her father was a creature of habit after all.
About five miles out of town, halfway to their destination, she heard a clunk, then the truck shuddered and slowed down.
“Come on, come on,” she begged it as she coasted to a stop. She was in a straight stretch of the wide gravel road, not a light was in sight. Just their luck, five miles from their destination, in the only uninhabited stretch of the way, the truck gave out. She spent a few futile minutes trying to get it to turn over, but all it would do was whir, then click and give out. She even considered opening the hood herself, but she wouldn’t know what to look for. She had never paid much attention to anything like that when she lived with her dad, she was Tom crazy from early on. She grabbed her phone to google truck repairs, but she was out of range. There wasn’t a single bar showing on the display.
“Fuck,” she said under her breath. The kids stirred beside her and she shut the lights off to think. She didn’t want to end their flight by waking them up to walk the rest of the way. It was pretty chilly up here on the way to the ranch, the snow had probably only been gone for a week or two.
She sat like that in the dark for a few moments before the tears came. They squeezed out, big, fat, hot tears of failure. She tried her best to make no noise beyond the sniffling and nose blowing that came with all her crying jags. The kids slept, unaware that their mother was having a mini breakdown on the seat beside them. Years with Tom had taught her the fine art of crying your heart out without making a single sound
She didn’t know how much time had gone by when she saw lights in the distance. She turned her hazards on to let whoever was driving know that they were here. She did her best to clean up her face and got ready to beg for a ride, she prayed she knew them and they didn’t have bad intentions.
As luck would have it, it was an RCMP cruiser, it pulled in front of her, its nose facing hers, and flashed the lights. A single officer was inside, she saw him call something in on his radio and they both got out at the same time.
The lights from the police car backlit the scene, she could only see a silhouette until the imposing officer was half a foot from her, towering over her with a wall of solid muscle and tight uniform. She might be fleeing, and having a mini breakdown, but she could still appreciate the outline of a ripped male body. She shivered in the cold air, looked up and heard, “Abbey? Holy shit! Abbey!” just before she was swept up in a pair of muscular arms and swung around like a child.
She struggled, then hugged back, certain the officer must know her. He set her down, put his hands on her shoulders and looked her up and down. He seemed familiar, but she couldn’t place him exactly. He took his hands off, held his arms out wide and said, “Come on, you haven’t been gone that long.”
It clicked suddenly and she recognized the face of her teenage best friend, David Edwards. He was not the skinny, lanky boy she remembered though. He had filled out, his body unrecognizable, but he still had the same gorgeous violet eyes. Elizabeth Taylor eyes their eighth grade English teacher had called them, much to his horror. He spent the rest of high school dodging the unfortunate nickname “Lizzie”, and had gravitated to the other outsiders, like herself. They became fast friends, almost inseparable, until the summer before ninth grade when she had met Tom at the annual rodeo. Tom had taken over her life then, claiming her heart, body and mind. She and David maintained their friendship as long as Tom allowed it. She faked her way through to graduation until she could run away back to Calgary, to Tom’s controlling isolation.
My god, he was different. The scrawny boy had given way to a tall, well muscled man. He oozed confidence and still had a killer smile. His teeth were white and bright and perfect, and most importantly, his eyes were still kind and generous.
“David! I didn’t recognize you. You’ve really changed,” she said, fatigue and stress masking her true excitement. Once upon a time she would have jumped into his arms for a hug, but years with Tom had given her an insecurity that was masked as snobbery to most who met her now.
“You haven’t changed a bit, you look exactly the same as the last time I saw you,” he said approvingly. “How have you been? What are you doing here?”
“I’ve been good, really good. And I’m here to see Dad, well, if we can get there,” she answered.
“That’s funny, I just saw him today at the Co-op and he didn’t mention it,” he said. The Co-op was the local feed store, fuel station and gossip central for farm folk.
“It’s a surprise, he doesn’t know,” she said with a small smile.
“Well, let’s get you home,” he said with a knowing look in his eyes. She never could keep anything from him, and she was grateful that he didn’t pry.
The truck was not repairable at the moment. David told her they’d leave it there, load their things in the police car and he’d take them the rest of the way. She woke the kids up, Zach first, and let David lead him to the car while she carried Sophie. They let Zach sit in the front and flick the lights on and off while she settled in the back with her daughter. The trip took a short few minutes and David chatted amicably with Zach as he drove. Zach had a million questions about what it was like to be in the RCMP, but David fielded each one with good humour and informative answers. She appreciated his kindness, keeping Zach calm and distracted.
They pulled up the long driveway of her father’s ranch...of home. It appeared that nothing much had changed, as she suspected, except for the brand new pick up truck parked in front of the modest two level farm house. As they came to a stop, her dad stepped out the front door looking sleepy and confused. He was wearing jeans he had obviously just pulled on, and a white undershirt. He looked old, older than she had anticipated. Her heart thumped in her chest, terrified that he’d take one look at them and send them on their way.
David got out first and she heard her dad call out, “Why are you here David? A visit from the police in the middle of the night is never a good thing, just get to the point and get there fast.”
Same old Dad, she smiled and stepped out, still holding Sophie. “It’s good news tonight Pete, I swear,” David replied quickly.
Abbey walked around him and added, “At least I hope it’s good news Dad, how are you?”
Her dad rubbed his eyes and slowly the realization overtook him and his face split into a wide grin. “Abbey!” he exclaimed and came down the steps. He stood in front her her and held his hands out to take Sophie from her. “This must be little Sophie, but she’s not so little now, is she?” he said and hugged Sophie close. Abbey though his eyes looked more watery than usual, but knew he wouldn’t cry. “Where’s Zachary?”
“Hey Dad, Zach’s in the car. Hang on,” she said and turned and gestured to her son. He stepped out of the car looking unsure of the situation.
David walked over and put his hand on Zach’s shoulder. “This here is your grandpa Pete,” he told him.
Zach smiled and walked towards them. Sophie woke up, looked at her grandpa and said, “Hi!” Abbey laughed at this, and was relieved that in spite of everything, her children were resilient.
They got the kids settled into the guest bedroom, Abbey and David loaded all their belongings into her old bedroom next door and she sat on the bed exhausted. The walls of her room were still pepto bismal pink, that had been an effort to prove to Tom that she wasn’t too much of a tomboy for him. He liked his women to be girly, and at the time they met, Abbey had been more interested in riding dirt bikes than wearing dresses.
“Wow, pink,” David remarked as he brought the last box up from his police car. “I don’t remember it being this pink, you know. Then again, it’s been what, almost fifteen years since I saw the inside of this place?”
“Yeah, about that. Maybe longer,” she smiled and suppressed a yawn. “I’m sorry, it’s been a long day.”
“You want to talk about it?” he asked.
“Not yet, I will, I promise, but not yet,” she assured him. “Right now I want to curl up on my single bed, under my crocheted pink bedspread, and sleep until I can’t remember my name.”
He reached out and touched her shoulder as a gesture of kindness, but he was standing, towering over her, and she flinched. Really jerked back away from his touch. She looked up at him and saw that knowing look back in his eyes.
“Whenever you’re ready,” he said simply. “I’m here for you.” He turned to leave, pausing at the door to add, “I’m really glad you’re back.” He flashed his killer smile, she had to smile back, and he was gone.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Perfectly Normal is LIVE! (plus, free epilogue)

Perfectly Normal is FINALLY here! I know you all have been waiting and waiting as this novella stretched out into a full length novel. There was so much ground to cover, and I still haven't gotten to the epilogue of The Beast when "you know who" was killed. So, buy it, enjoy it, and please tell your friends! I appreciate your continued support, and holy cow, I seriously have the best readers EVER and am honoured and humbled daily by the amazing people this writing journey has brought into my life. xoxox

Perfectly Normal (book two): US Amazon,
UK Amazon,
CAN Amazon,

The Beast (book one): US Amazon,
UK Amazon,
CAN Amazon,

And now a FREE chapter from Perfectly Normal, the epilogue in which we meet two characters who will make an appearance in Little Dove, the third book in the series.


Ioana Lupu had been a gifted child. Growing up in a small village in Moldova, Romania’s poorest region in the North East had been difficult, but she had persevered. She learned as much as she could by teaching herself to read at a young age and sneaking into the church to soak up as much knowledge as her curious mind could hold. She made friends with Bunica Popp, a woman who had more years than anyone could count and owned the village’s only radio. She would tune into Romania’s news and information station night after night, and Ioana would sit close and listen to everything the hosts would say. Ioana would trade this time for small chores around Bunica’s house. Because of the access to the radio, she considered herself rather well learned about the state of affairs beyond their tiny town.
Thus, when a kind, older woman in fancy clothing and a long, sleek car approached her, she considered herself intelligent enough to sense a scam. She was fourteen after all, and the most sought after for marriage in her village, but had remained aloof and separate, believing herself destined for better things.
The older woman’s name had been Madelina, such a beautiful sound to roll off Ioana’s lips back then.
Nowadays she spat it with the same force one might use to spit bitter venom from one’s mouth.
Madelina had promised her work in Bucharest as a housemaid, something vague but promising. Fourteen-year-old Ioana hadn’t considered there would be anything other than cleaning toilets and folding towels.
She had been so wrong.
Madelina had been a scout, traveling the country looking for the most promising and desperately beautiful of all the girls and boys. She had paid Ioana’s parents a large sum of money and promised more, along with regular updates on Ioana’s progress in the big city. The intent had been to work for five years, then return to marry and settle down. Old for a woman of her village, but one with Ioana’s beauty and assumed riches would have no troubles.
Ioana’s mother had wept when she left, and pressed a tarnished necklace into her hand with a single bright blue cut glass pendant. Her own mother had given it to her on her wedding day, and she insisted her eldest daughter take it with her. Ioana had dressed in her best clothing, threadbare but clean and bright. She’d worn her best pair of leather men’s shoes, they weren’t stylish she knew, but they were shiny and comfortable. She had kissed each of her siblings on the cheek and promised to return to them soon. She’d gotten into the long, black car with Madelina and waved at her family until they turned a corner on the road and they were out of sight.
The first night they had stayed at a roadside hotel, a shabby one by most standards but it was beyond luxurious for Ioana. The towels had been clean and she had been given a bed all to herself. Back home she shared a small pallet with her three little sisters in a cramped back room stuffed with kids. Ioana’s cousins and siblings and sometimes a neighbor child when the parents had to work.
The next night they had arrived in the city and spent it at an even more decadent hotel. Ioana had spent hours in the tub, soaking and refilling it as the water grew cold. She’d emerged; pink fleshed and flushed cheeked and spent the most incredible night of her life rolling around the great, fluffy bed.
That would be her last comfortable night. The next day Madelina had taken her to her new workplace, a crumbling townhouse in the centre of Bucharest’s Ferentari district. Ioana was uncomfortable the moment they entered and Madelina had locked the heavy metal doors behind them.
The townhouse was full of girls and woman of all ages, shapes and races. They possessed varying degrees of mental awareness, some hanging about in filthy rags looking like the aftermath of a battle, others with sharp faces drawn in permanent shifty grins.
Each one looked Ioana up and down and immediately found her lacking. She was just another stupid country girl coming to the city looking for riches and finding forced servitude in one of Bucharest’s many brothels.
For a country so impoverished, it was simply amazing how many men could afford to use such places. There was a seemingly never ending parade of them, all pinching and probing and eventually fucking the girls any way they wanted, any place and any time.
Ioana had spent that first night balled up in a corner on a dirty floor in a back bedroom that doubled as a wardrobe and impromptu change room. It was full of clothing, all of it resembling her own threadbare outfit. She soon deduced it had been taken from the girls when they arrived and was cycled around the prostitutes, as they needed.
The next day had been her first introduction to the type of work she’d been bought for. A fat, old Czech business traveler had shown interest in her, as much for her beauty as her virginity. The housemother had dragged her to a back bedroom, she had been a great hulking woman from a village near Ioana’s, but Ioana’s pleading had fallen on deaf ears. There was no community among whores. The housemother had forced Ioana into a headlock under her stinking, flabby arm and wrestled her to the client.
He had not even spoken to her when he tore the clothes from her body, forced her face down on a filthy mattress and fucked her hard until she lost all sense of time or reality. It all seemed more like a nightmare than anything she could have imagined for her life. Nothing on her body was sacred to him and nothing was left untouched that day; she was broken in until she was left a weeping mess of girl meat and sweaty man stench. The businessman paid his very high price for destroying her virgin body and left when he had satiated his needs. She never saw him again, but she saw many more like him over the next two years. She fell into a waking nightmare of the living dead, stumbling from one horrific encounter to the next. Fighting with other girls over slivers of soap and rags to stop the bleeding. Many had simply stopped eating or slit their own throats when they had the chance. The more malleable of the girls were sent to better houses, only returned if they became pregnant or too old to please higher end clientele.
Ioana thought about killing herself many times. She was a fighter though, never one to shrink in the face of a raging client or an angry housemother. She finally fought back one too many times and was kicked out of the house one night after she’d bitten the cock of one particularly vicious client. She was sent into the street naked, clutching only a thin blanket and the necklace she’d miraculously managed to hang onto. 
She’d wandered for a day through the city, huddling over heat vents to escape the frigid nights, and begging for anything to keep her alive. She contemplated walking home, back to her parents, no matter how long it took. She couldn’t though; she couldn’t bring shame upon them. She would be useless to them now that she was a disgraced former whore, how could she support herself in their tiny village if word got out what she was?
The next day she was picked up by a street gang and saved, as much as a stupid, prideful whore could be saved. She was almost seventeen at this point…or could have been eighteen; she’d lost track of the years during her time in the brothel. The leader, simply known as Boian, took a liking to her and kept her close once he found out she could read. Their mutual respect and friendship inevitably lead to a relationship, one that served them both well and blossomed into a fiery love.
Boian was no more than a boy himself, nineteen and strong, tall and proud…and devastatingly handsome. He was also ruthless and cunning, but possessed a strong moral code that he stuck with religiously. It didn’t follow the same code as those living inside of the law, but it was an honourable set of rules nonetheless.
He ruled the underground, miles and miles of dank, dark warrens and tunnels under the city streets. He was just and kind to those who served him, but cutthroat and deadly to those he saw as his enemy. He had been an orphan, tossed out of the orphanage at the age of ten, deemed too old to be adoptable and too mean to keep around. Thus, he became the Orphan King; the head of hundreds of lost children, those thrown to the curb the moment they’d been born, their mothers and fathers unknown to them.
For this, Ioana stood out among the rest, having had a family to raise her and keep her warm and safe until she’d been taken. She seemed like a foreigner to them all and was constantly barraged with questions about having a mother and father, people who loved her.
She was happy with them all and ran with Boian for three years, until just yesterday, the day she realized that she was pregnant with his child. There was no way she could have a baby down here among the orphans and waifs, thieves and murderers, glue sniffers and drug addicts…among her chosen people.
She made the decision that first moment she felt the baby kick and finally understood what it was and why she had been so exhausted; she was going to make the long journey home. She woke early, before anyone in the great underground cavern stirred. She and Boian had been given the gift of privacy in their little back tunnel; this afforded her more autonomy than most. She paused in the light of the stolen flashlight she clutched in her hand and looked at him one last time. He was beautiful when he slept, his angular face turned soft and angelic. He looked like one of the paintings in the church, with thick black curls framing his smooth face. It wasn’t until he opened his dark eyes that you realized you were in the presence of a very old soul, one who could just as easily make love to you or slit your throat, depending on your next move.
She leaned and kissed him for the last time and laid her hand on his chest. She felt the comforting rise and fall of his rhythmic breathing and smiled. She really did love him; she just didn’t love where life had taken them. If only they had been raised together in her little village and he a farm boy instead of the king of orphans. If only life hadn’t been so cruel, she would be curled up with him now, his hand protectively on her stomach, feeling their baby kick. If only…
She stood before she lost her nerve. She turned and left the tunnel, silently telling every sleeping soul a farewell. She was fond of them all, each one in a different way but collectively as a rag tag type of family. She passed the night guards and told them some story about wanting to get to the fruit sellers early to pinch a couple oranges for Boian, as a gift for him. They commented on her kindness and her ears burned in shame as she left him forever.
If only she had told him about the baby, perhaps he would have talked her out of leaving with promises of a better life, of changing their circumstances.
If only she had told him so she didn’t find herself hours outside of Bucharest, alone on the highway, heading for home.
If only she had told him, she wouldn’t have decided to spend the night on the side of the road, at a small rest stop in the middle of nowhere. She took her last crust of hard bread from her pack and nibbled on it as she watched the sun setting. She’d been walking all day and her heart was growing heavier with each passing mile. She missed him already, longing for him as a drowning man longed for his last breath.
If only she would have told him, she wouldn’t have been interrupted by bright headlights cutting through the darkening night. She wouldn’t have jumped off the ground as a long, black car rolled up beside her.
If only she had told him, she wouldn’t have been dragged into the car, kicking and screaming until a punch to the side of her head forced her into the abyss.

Her last thought as she slipped away was of Boian, his eyes shining when she made him laugh, his face so fierce as he spilled his seed inside of her, his heart pounding in his chest as he made his declarations of love… and his baby. If only…if only…

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Perfectly Normal epilogue, free preview!

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That's it! Free and awesome writing that introduces us to Ioana, the whore of Bucharest and her love, Boian, the Oprhan King. These two will make more of an appearance in my next novel in this series, Little Dove.

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